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The Purpose of Prayer

Preacher, evangelist, and prayer warrior, R.A. Torrey, graduated from Yale Divinity School more than 100 years before I did. He also had lots of children and lived in Ohio for a time, so we've got quite a bit in common. But that's about where the similarities end: his prayer life—and the subsequent power of his ministry—puts him in a league of his own.

If you've ever wondered what's the use in praying if God already knows what's on my heart and mind? Then listen to what Torrey has to say on the perennial question, "Why pray?"

Here's my summary of Torrey's 11 reasons to pray, from his classic How to Pray.

1. Because there is a devil. This seems obvious enough, but plenty of people—even many Christians—don't really believe it. The Scripture is clear that the Devil exists and that he's actively and intently searching for prey. He "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8). That image alone should force us to our knees pretty fast.

2. Because that's how God blesses us with the desires of our hearts. Like a good father, God wants to delight us. We often "have not, because we ask not" (James 4:2).

3. Because the apostles, the men Jesus chose as his closest companions and future leaders, regarded prayer as the most important part of their lives.

4. Because prayer also played the most important part of Jesus' own life.

5. Because prayer continues to be the most important part of what Jesus does for us even now. Jesus' ministry didn't end when his earthly life did; he is in heaven praying for us right this moment: "he always lives to intercede for us" (Hebrews 7:25).

6. Because prayer is the very way we receive help and mercy from God when we need it most.

7. Because Jesus said prayer is the way we receive "fullness of joy" (John 16:24). Who doesn't want to be filled full of joy? "We all know people whose joy is filled full, indeed it is just running over, is shining from their eyes, bubbling out of their very lips, and running off their fingertips when they shake hands with you. Coming in contact with them is like coming in contact with an electrical machine charged with gladness. Now people of that sort are always people that spend much time in prayer" (Torrey).

8. Because praying with a thankful heart is the way God protects us from anxiety and grants us His peace. "Time spent in prayer is not wasted, but time invested at big interest" (Torrey).

9. Because prayer is the means by which we allow the Holy Spirit into our lives.

10. Because prayer mitigates the "anxieties of this life" from weighing us down so much that we miss the big picture: "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkeness and the anxieties of this life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap... Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be label to stand before the Son of Man" Luke 21:34, 36).

11. Because prayer works!

"There is no greater joy on earth or in heaven than communion with God, and prayer in the name of Jesus brings us into communion with Him" (Torrey).

Amen and amen.

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